Monday, April 09, 2007

Blogging guidelines: Civility or censorship?

After a shouting match free-for-all developed on a technology blog recently, Tim O’Reilly, a conference promoter and book publisher who is credited with coining the term Web 2.0, began working with Jimmy Wales, creator of the communal online encyclopedia Wikipedia, to create a set of guidelines to shape online discussion and debate.

Today's New York Times has a long article discussing their ideas.

O'Reilly's version and his comments can be found here.

Here are the guidelines suggested by Wales, along with his commentary:
The Bloggers Code of Conduct

We celebrate the blogosphere because it embraces frank and open conversation. But frankness does not have to mean lack of civility. We present this Blogger Code of Conduct in hopes that it helps create a culture that encourages both personal expression and constructive conversation. One can disagree without being disagreeable.

1. We take responsibility for our own words and for the comments we allow on our blog.

We are committed to the "Civility Enforced" standard: we will not post unacceptable content, and we'll delete comments that contain it.

We define unacceptable content as anything included or linked to that:
  • is being used to abuse, harass, stalk, or threaten others
  • is libelous, knowingly false, ad-hominem, or misrepresents another person
  • infringes upon a copyright or trademark
  • violates an obligation of confidentiality
  • violates the privacy of others
We define and determine what is "unacceptable content" on a case-by-case basis, and our definitions are not limited to this list. If we delete a comment or link, we will say so and explain why. We reserve the right to change these standards at any time with no notice.

2. We won't say anything online that we wouldn't say in person.

3. If tensions escalate, we will connect privately before we respond publicly.

When we encounter conflicts and misrepresentation in the blogosphere, we make every effort to talk privately and directly to the person(s) involved — or find an intermediary who can do so — before we publish any posts or comments about the issue.

4. When we believe someone is unfairly attacking another, we take action.

When someone who is publishing comments or blog postings that are offensive, we'll tell them so (privately, if possible) and ask them to publicly make amends. If those published comments could be construed as a threat, and the perpetrator doesn't withdraw them and apologize, we will cooperate with law enforcement to protect the target of the threat.

5. We do not allow anonymous comments.

We require commenters to supply a valid email address before they can post, though we allow commenters to identify themselves with an alias, rather than their real name.

6. We ignore the trolls.

We prefer not to respond to nasty comments about us or our blog, as long as they don't veer into abuse or libel. We believe that feeding the trolls only encourages them — "Never wrestle with a pig. You both get dirty, but the pig likes it." Ignoring public attacks is often the best way to contain them.

7. We encourage blog hosts to enforce more vigorously their terms of service

When bloggers engage in such flagrantly abusive behavior as creating impersonating sites to harass other bloggers they should take responsibility for their clients' behavior.
Here at the Burning Taper, we strive to keep the comments section as open as possible. Only once in a while have we deleted anyone's comments, and except when an occasional foul-mouthed troll comes along, we've kept your ability intact to post anonymously.

What do you think about these guidelines? Are they fair, or do they limit free speech? Do you support them? Would you adopt these rules for your own blog? Do you think the Burning Taper should adopt them, in toto or at least partially?

Or is this much ado about nothing?

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  1. With the right of free speach also comes the responsibility of your speach. The fact that people even feel the need to come up with a guideline shows me that there are people that dont accept that responsiblilty. As my Daddy says: "My rights end where yours begin."

    While the US Constitution gives us the right of free speach that only is as far as the government will not limit our speach.

    With the anonomity that the internet offers people get pretty bold and run their mouths a lot more than they will in public/person. I dont like it I move on. That said, I tend to look at things like this as: Blogger owns this system, they set the rules for using it. Just as a guest in my house will not smoke in my house.. my house, my rules. Dont like it, leave or get tossed out on your bum.

  2. Bro. Seeker,

    Thank you for your comments.

    You said that the Constitution gave us the right of free speech. This is a misconception that I must clear up, as my feelings on this issue are close to my heart.

    The Bill of Rights, especially the First Amendment, didn't grant the rights it mentions. It enumerated the rights we have as humans, rights given us by our Creator. Those rights are ours because we exist. The Bill of Rights was adopted to limit intrusions on certain God-given rights.

    Despots have often tried to take away those rights, and current political thinking often ignores those rights, but no government gives them; they simply recognize that they exist.

    — W.S.

  3. Or is this much ado about nothing?


    Do mature adults have to be agree to a contract to be honest, truthful, and considerate?

    The blogworld is kind of like where Usenet was at one time. No moderators meant that people tried to be considerate, and policed themselves. It worked well for the most part.

  4. It is true that god gave us these rights and not man but it was not until some men wrote these words in the Constitution that people believed they had this right.


  5. Unfortunately there will always be "trolls." There will always be people who hide behind the impersonal nature of the "internets" and spew vitriol. Good manners are not necessarily instinctive.

    I don't get a lot of vitriol at my blog; not sure if it's the grandmother thing, or if it's just because I don't do a lot of angry spewing, but commenters tend to be pretty civilized. I also don't really spend time at blogs that are really, really angry. That's just me, though.

  6. I for one, believe that there should be free speech within limits.

    I moderate my comments because I will not have foul language, long winded religious screeds, or posts IN ALL CAPPS.

    I will not, however tell someone they can't do that at their blog if they want to.

    Besides, I like my kooks out in the open and screaming. They're easy to keep track of that way, and they aren't being quiet enough to sneek up on you.

  7. WS, man has many percieved G-d given rights but as someone else said until the are enumerated and put into law there is nothing to enforce those rights or to even ensure you could exercise those rights. Yes people in Soviet Russia had the G-d given RIGHT to speak out against Stalin, but we all know how well that worked out for them.

    Bloggerdotcom and all other services have a Terms Of Service that all bloggers agree to. There is no right to free speach in a privatly owned environment. This goes back to the my house my rules.

  8. I agree: My house, my rules.

    I was merely pointing out that the Constitution didn't give rights, it listed what already existed.

    — W.S.

  9. The older I become, the more I find my moral inclinations leaning toward anarchy.

    Really, what moral right has one man to "govern" the actions of another, and if a whole bunch of us with few (if any) rights join together, does that make our case more legitimate?

    As Solomon said in the book of Ecclesiastes: "There is a time wherein one man ruleth over another to his own hurt." I've seen that with my own eyes, and experienced its results. Absolute power corrupts absolutely, and there's unfortunately a lot more of that in Masonry than most Masons realize, or are willing to admit.

    But if absolute power corrupts absolutely, does it not follow that "moderate" power corrupts moderately, and if so, is moderate corruption preferable to absolute corruption? Probably, but wouldn't the absence of corruption be favorable to both?

    The problem with mankind has always been that the great majority of people don't really need laws to make them do right, and the small minority for whom the laws are needed, won't willingly follow them anyway. Such being the case, do laws really do much good, or are they like locks on doors, which only keep out "honest" people?

    The reality is that if no rules are maintained, a small minority of mankind will destroy society, whether it's in the real world, or a world that's created and maintained in cyberspace. That forces the rest of mankind to struggle with moral issues that would otherwise be unnecessary, yet what choice is there?

    Damned if I know, but it seems that the best historical solution has been the "compromise" of having only the fewest and most essential rules possible. Somehow, our legislatures and other lawmaking bodies who pass hundreds of thousands of NEW laws each year, seem to have forgotten that, but it's what seems to have worked best historically.

    The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, managed to establish a good set of "laws" with just 10 "commandments." As men, do we really need millions of additional laws to further regulate our lives?

    My guess is: "probably not," but we have them anyway.


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